Juventus vs. Milan Preview: Taste the Pain

The match of the year is here, where the number one team in the league hosts the team that started off the season in relegation trouble and has made an extraordinary comeback to sit four points clear on either side in third place. Otherwise known as Juventus vs. Milan. What makes it the match of the year is the bitter acrimony of last season and also the fact that Milan won the initial fixture this season due to a controversial penalty awarded us. Also, that Milan currently enjoy a 14 match unbeaten streak, the best in Serie A this season, while Juventus enjoy an 11 point lead at the top of the table. So win, draw, or lose, someone is going to taste the pain.

Isla no handball? Muntari no goal. All is fair in love and football

Juventus’ season has been filled with ups and downs, yet in a season they should have dominated due to underperformances of the other clubs, they’ve dominated despite some underperformances of their own. Certainly if they want to claim that Milan won the Scudetto in 2011 because there was no real competition, the argument could be made that Juventus made their own and only competition this season by choking when they should have dominated. That said, however, after a 1-1 draw with Napoli, they have won their last five matches, and pretty convincingly, even if they were even more dominated by Bayern in the Champions League Quarterfinals during this same time. So we will face the dominating version of this year’s future Scudetto winners. And by future, I mean they could wrap up the league next week if they win on Sunday and then against Torino in the Derby della Mole next week.

Despite our vindication in our victory in November, something else we face on Sunday that is different is Conte. Having served his lengthy ban in the Calcioscommesse farce, he took another brief vacation or two after accosting referees this season, but will be on the bench to face his polar opposite and nemesis, Allegri. Where Conte subs and employs actual tactical changes, Allegri valiantly refuses to make tactical changes, going down with the ship for it on so many occasions. When Juve score, Conte erupts into a ball of emotion, whereas when Milan score, Allegri grimaces as if he’s just passed gas. When things get intense, Conte screams and gesticulates and menaces and intimidates the refs, whereas Allegri at best will scream “Dai Dai Dai!” or likely his more recently preferred “Calma Calma Calma.” One of these managers is likely to taste the pain on Sunday.

Hey, stranger. Did you miss us?

Speaking of the managers, in their 2-0 victory over Lazio, Conte lined up Buffon; Peluso, Barzagli, Bonucci; Pogba, Pirlo, Asamoah, Vidal, Lichtsteiner; Marchisio; and Vucinic in a fresh 3-5-1-1 that makes a lot of sense for the team whose strikers haven't been able to score well. I expect him to mix it up a little for Milan, if for no other reason than nostalgia, but to stick with the newer formation. Chiellini was meant to be out for 2 weeks, but is rumored to be struggling for match fitness for Sunday. It is hard to know which strikers Conte will use, as they all struggle to score, especially when it’s important. Coming off of his brace on Monday, Vidal will hopefully act like an excited puppy, but perhaps with the accuracy of our own Boateng, as he is prone to do after a big performance.

Meanwhile, Allegri’s got some ‘splaining to do about his lineups last week against Napoli. Many believe it was his bizarre lineups and substitutions that cost us the win, he saw the glass as one point full. Certainly, it can be said that Allegri follows the Forrest Gump theory of lineups: Lineups are like a box of chocolate, you never know what you’re going to get. I never know if he’s trolling the fans, trolling the players, trolling the other teams, or if he simply delusional, but after so much consistency in the wake of his mind-numbing level of inconsistency that saw such a poor start to our season, it seems like he is back to his unpredictable ways with a vengeance.

Whether or not he is even there, you can bet there will be racist chants for him

Also unpredictable: as of this writing, it is unknown whether Balotelli’s extended 2 match ban will be upheld or overturned in his appeal. So that unknown (which is supposed to be decided today) puts Allegri’s lineups into even more question. Certainly, no one will argue that his presence or lack thereof will be a gamechanger, one way or the other. Having left out El Shaarawy in the starting lineup for Napoli, sitting Niang more often than not lately, and continuing to play the mezz’ala Boateng as a striker, surely Juventus have no idea what to prepare for. Allegri said last week that Robinho would be an important player for us in these last six matches. However, he didn’t indicate if that would be from the bench, from Brazil, or what.

He will most certainly start Montolivo in the middle, as no one burns players out better than Allegri. And Ambrosini is rumored to be fit again, which is good timing after Flamini’s spectacularly sophomoric tackle last week that sees him banned for this match. But will he play the underperforming Muntari or the underperforming Nocerino on the left? Or perhaps actually put Boateng where he is most effective? I’m not holding my breath on that one. I would say that Abate, Mexes, and Zapata are the most likely candidates to start in their respective positions. But will he prefer the “more physical” Constant at left back? Or the kid, De Sciglio, who bossed Asamoah previously but recently gave up a penalty to show his inexperience? Given that Asamoah has hardly been any kind of threat this calendar year for Juve, that question probably doesn’t need to be answered.

Let's hope this is the most camera time Signor Banti gets.

If the referee, Signor Banti, and his crew, don’t play a deciding factor in this match, Juventus’ home stadium will. The one certain thing is that, whether or not he is even there, Balotelli will be the victim of racist chanting. Because despite Juventus’s motto that “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing,” let’s face it, racist chants are what they do best. And considering that they have abused Balotelli at nearly every other match Juventus has played, home or away, since he returned to Serie A this season, why would they stop their monopoly on stupidity now? My only hope is that if Balotelli does have his ban overturned, he stays calm and answers them on the pitch. With goals. Plural. I want those idiotic racist fans to taste the pain. And ironically, most of the Juve fans I know really want them silenced, too, even if it’s not necessarily with a defeat.

Milan are fighting for Champions League qualification, something that was only a dream in November. Juventus want to get their Scudetto wrapped up before they choke and give up any more points. With the pride and the history and yes, the acrimony between these two teams, it will be an intense spectacle to say the least. Twenty-two players will enter the pitch, but how many will be sent off? Will the referee take the spotlight, or will the game be one to remember for the actual football? At the end of the match, I hope it is the latter. And if someone has to taste the pain, please, dear gods of football, can it please just be Juventus?

This post inspired by the music of the Red Hot Chili Peppers

Juventus vs. Milan
Sunday, April 21 • 20:45 CEST (2:45 EDT)
This match will be broadcast on RAI and BeIn Sport in the U.S.
(check comments for stream links before the match)

Juventus vs. Milan Preview: Taste the Pain Juventus vs. Milan Preview: Taste the Pain Reviewed by Elaine on 4:35 AM Rating: 5
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